US troops killed in Afghanistan; NDAA fight looms; $4.6B border supplemental; USAF’s father-son dogfight; and just a bit more…

Two U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday. Army Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, and Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, died in combat in the Afghan province of Uruzgan, Pentagon officials said in a statement on Thursday.

They were “on a joint U.S.- Afghan patrol when they were fatally shot, a defense official told NBC News.” 

• Master Sgt. Riley, from Heilbronn, Germany, was with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) out of Fort Carson, Colorado.

• Sgt. Johnston, from Trumansburg, New York, served with the 71st Ordnance Group, stationed in Fort Hood, Texas.

Senate passes defense authorization act, putting it on a collision course with the House version. Defense News: “Senators on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a $750 billion defense authorization bill for next year despite concerns from congressional Democrats over the size spending totals, an expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and a lack of a check on President Donald Trump’s war powers.” Read on, here.

From Defense One

Pentagon Official: We Didn’t Link Iran to al-Qaeda In Hill Briefings // Katie Bo Williams, Defense One: “In these briefings, none of the officials mentioned al-Qa’ida or the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force,” DASD Mick Mulroy said.

Lawmaker: Human Problem at Pentagon Worse than Tech Problem // Marcus Weisgerber: Rep. Jim Cooper says Congress shouldn’t accept a government topped by acting political appointees.

Code that Allowed the Equifax Breach Was Downloaded 21M Times Last Year // Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: A report highlights the difficulties of securing the many government IT systems that rely on open-source software.

Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Rare-earths concern grows; F-35 news; Who’s acting now? And more…

Democrats Still Don’t Know How to Talk About Climate Change // Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic: They did try, though.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston and Katie Bo Williams. Thanks for reading! Subscribe here. Send tips here.

$4.6 billion emergency border bill passes. Amid a welter of news reports about the U.S. government holding migrants in unsanitary conditions, and pleas from border officials for more resources, both houses of Congress passed a bill to allocate billions more. But, reports CBS News, “House Democrats passed the clean Senate border appropriations bill with none of the additional migrant child protections or accountability measures sought by Democrats…House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues earlier in the day that she was disappointed that the Senate had been disrespectful in ignoring the House Democrats’ priorities” adding: “In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill,” Pelosi wrote.

ICE holding more people, proportionally fewer violent criminals. Examining ICE-provided data from September 2018 through December 2018, Syracuse University’s TRAC program concluded that “The most striking change over this 27-month period was a dramatic drop in the number of individuals who had committed serious crimes.” Read on, here.

There was even less foreign policy in Thursday night’s Democratic primary debate than on Wednesday’s—and this was former vice president Joe Biden’s night on the stage. 

Biden was asked to justify his vote in the Iraq war, and responded by taking credit for the withdrawal. (A withdrawal that critics point out is seen by analysts as a key factor in the rise of ISIS.) He appeared to call for the repeal of either the 2001 or 2002 AUMF, but it wasn’t clear which one, and for bringing troops home from Afghanistan. But on what was seen as the heavy-hitter night, the debate revolved largely around healthcare, immigration and race. 

Overall, Sen. Kamala Harris, Calif., and upstart candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg had the most successful night. Biden had a rocky evening, in particular floundering in a contentious debate with Harris over his relationship to segregationists in the Senate and facing repeated attacks from younger rivals on past positions that don’t jive with the Democratic party’s newly-empowered progressive wing.

One important thing we learned… U.S.-New Zealand relations may be on the rocks under a President Marianne Williamson, who said her first act as president will be to call the prime minister Jacinda Ardern to challenge her on child-rearing. “My first call is to the prime minister of New Zealand, who said that her goal is to make New Zealand the best place in the world for a child in the world to grow up,” Williamson said. “And I will tell her ‘Girlfriend, you are so on, because the United States of America is going to be the best place in the world for a child to grow up.’” That’s a real quote, but watch Kate McKinnon, here

Lastly today, some recruiting news: What U.S. cities and towns produce the most recruits? McClatchy’s Tara Copp digs into the data and draws up top-25 lists of the towns and cities that send the largest proportion of their sons and daughters to the military. 

No. 1? North Carolina’s Hope Mills. “Like most of the other top 25 towns, Hope Mills, is near a major military base. Its high schools have well-developed Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs as part of their curriculum, and recruiters are welcome on campus. Like almost all of the top 25 towns, Hope Mills had fewer than 4,000 residents age 17 to 24. Almost all of the communities were located in the South or Southwest,” Copp writes.

Has the Air Force found the next “Top Gun”? We don’t mean the upcoming sequel to the 1986 movie that led so many would-be fighter jocks to join the Navy. We mean this Saturday’s dogfight between U.S. fighter pilots who happen to be father and son. And by “dogfight,” we mean that Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes, an F-15 Eagle pilot, will square off against 1st Lt. Wade Holmes, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, in the game Ace Combat 7 — and stream it live on gaming website on Saturday at 1 p.m. EDT.

“Air Combat Command said the event is intended to engage the 18-to-35 demographic,” reports

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